Blunder on bottled water colors EU's offshore initiative

The European Union has forfeited credibility needed elsewhere with forays last month into drilling and diction.

While the Eurozone quaked under fiscal crisis, the EU bumbled into inappropriate realms.

Calling the move a response to the Macondo disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the EU proposed common regulation for oil and gas drilling off all European coasts.

It disclosed this initiative shortly after its European Food Standards Authority (EFSA) decided sellers of bottled water can’t claim their product fights dehydration.

Water bottlers can spend 2 years in jail if they claim “regular consumption of significant amounts of water can reduce the risk of development of dehydration” and prevent a decrease in performance.

German advertising consultants had applied to the European Commission to use the wording under new laws governing claims about lowering disease risk.

EFSA officials last February refused to approve the statement and consulted a group of 21 scientists, which somehow upheld the decision. So the EU issued a directive banning expressions of the self-evident. And water bottlers can’t say water cuts the risk of dehydration.

This is bureaucracy gone amok, an element of regulatory imperialism the practice of which can’t make offshore drilling and production safer.

EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger thinks otherwise. He called Europe-wide offshore regulation “a crucial step forward towards safer offshore activities to the benefit of our citizens and our environment.”

Nonsense. Safety regulation at the national level is intense and effective. To switch regulation in active countries like Norway and the UK would be much more risky than leaving existing systems in place.

Furthermore, Brussels is not the world’s center of offshore oil and gas technical expertise. The implication that one set of regulations can apply as validly to, say, the UK North Sea’s Southern Gas basin as to the Norwegian Sea evokes no confidence in the EU’s understanding of the subject.

The EU should focus on problems closer to its charter. The euro would be a good place to start.

(Online Dec. 2, 2011; author’s e-mail: bobt@ogjonline.com)

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